How My Vintage Obsession Turned into a Second Career

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved hunting for vintage treasures. (Of course, it’s only recently that I’ve used the term “vintage” — we just called it “used” when I was growing up). As a teenager, I used to go with my friends to a local second-hand warehouse called “Frenchy’s” in search of affordable yet fashionable pieces for our wardrobes. We found some really fun slouchy sweaters, oversize shirts and sweatshirts, and sometimes even stylish hats or jewelry. To me, those finds were so much better than the clothes we saw at regular retail stores. It wasn’t just the low prices–although that was definitely a draw considering my meager teenage budget–it was the chance to find something unique that everyone else didn’t have.

Frenchy's just closed in 2014 in my hometown.
Frenchy’s just closed in 2014 in my hometown of Truro, N.S. (Credit: Harry Sullivan -TRURO DAILY NEWS)

Shopping at Frenchy’s was also a social outlet. It was fun to drive there with two or three friends after school, not knowing what, if anything, we would find that day. No matter how many times I came up empty, I approached every visit with the same excitement and anticipation and was often convinced that we would find something of great value. I  actually enjoyed spending a couple of hours sorting through the heaps and heaps of discarded items laid out on long tables. While others (including my mother) saw a bunch of dusty, discarded junk, I always wondered what was hidden within.

Recycling wasn’t yet in vogue in the 1970s-80s of my childhood, but I guess I was ahead of that curve. As an inherently thrifty person, I have always appreciated the idea of recycling and reusing things that are old but not necessarily worse for wear. As a young parent, I found lots of great outfits for my kids at used clothing stores and couldn’t imagine paying full price for play clothes that they would outgrow and discard in a few months. However, as I grew older I realized that I often preferred buying old to new and that it didn’t have everything to do with cost. Most of my favorite decor and keepsakes around my house today were purchased second-hand. From furniture to shelf decor, I’ve found many things to treasure from what others sold or threw away.

midcentury table
A recent find purchased at the Brimfield, MA, Antique Show, now in my living room.

I find it difficult to pass an antique mall, flea market, or estate sale without stopping to browse (often to the chagrin of my sons when they’re along on family outings). My husband and I have moved several times over the past couple of decades and we’ve always sought out antique or thrift stores to find unique furniture and art objects to suit the style of our new homes. However, after a while it became clear that my impulse to buy was greater than our need for more stuff. That’s when I started my Etsy shop: Premium Transitions.

After reading this far, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I love running a vintage shop. I get to spend time looking through estate sales, flea markets, and tag sales with the legitimate purpose of keeping my business up and running. Over time, I have gotten better at knowing what Etsy customers want to buy and have reconfigured my shop accordingly. Recently, I began to focus on fashion, including vintage handbags, jewelry, and hats. Other popular items include vintage hand-painted pottery, midcentury Pyrex, and decorative art objects and prints.

unikat pottery
A customer recently bought this pretty Unikat teapot made in Poland for her friend’s birthday.

One thing I love about selling on Etsy is finding new homes for things that might otherwise get tossed away or languish forgotten in a closet. It is wonderful to get notes from customers about how they plan to use their purchase, such as the high school student who wondered if I could rush ship a vintage purse in time for her prom (no problem!) and the young woman who bought a midcentury Pyrex casserole dish –still in its original box–as a gift for her mother’s birthday. Sometimes customers send photos, such as an adorable ceramic owl on its new perch above the fireplace of its new home.

Vintage purses vintage jewelry
Vintage bags and jewelry from the 1940s and ’50s are back in style.

In a way I’ve come full circle from those days searching through the tables at Frenchy’s. Back then, I never imagined my passion turning into a business, but I’m glad it did. What will I find next? It’s always a mystery and never gets boring. The next big find is probably right around the corner.

 

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